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Buses vs. streetcars: The debate continues

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

“They don’t want these damn streetcars blocking up our city!” thundered the late Rob Ford in 2012.

The argument has raged in and out of City Hall for years – buses vs. streetcars. Which is more efficient for riders and drivers?

This summer, the 501 streetcars on Queen Street were replaced by buses during construction. CityNews heard from multiple commuters saying the bus was much faster.

Councillor Michael Ford says he’s even heard from first responders who echo those sentiments. When responding to a call where seconds could mean the difference between life and death, they said buses were the clear winner.

“A Toronto firefighter reached out to us and said … we are responding much quicker, it is easier for us to be getting to calls. And when you have that type of outreach from our first responders and from a variety of people … I think it was a win for everybody. Everyone was moving quicker … and I hope that we will continue to look at this”

Councillor Ford’s motion to conduct a study on whether buses or streetcars are more efficient on Queen Street was rejected by City Council this fall. It was considered redundant as streetcars were already back on that route in September.

The 501 Queen route is the TTC’s longest streetcar line, used by approximately 52,000 riders on a typical weekday. Ford believes some of his colleagues are choosing to remain willfully ignorant and do not want to see what the data might reveal. Having heavily invested in new streetcars, the TTC says they’ve already compiled their own numbers and claim buses are not quicker than streetcars.

Stuart Green from TTC media relations says the decision to use streetcars as the vehicle of choice in the downtown core was made a long time ago and the transit provider is moving forward accordingly. He adds that streetcars accommodate more people than buses and revisiting that decision is unnecessary.

“f you look at Spadina or down on Harbourfront, there are dedicated rights-of-way for the streetcars. Those are the kinds of things that allow streetcars to move even better in traffic, he says. “Certainly in terms of getting people around the city streetcars have proven to be very efficient. Fewer vehicles more people.”

However when it comes to volume, articulated accordion style buses move the same amount of people as a regular streetcar. Transit expert Murtaza Haider is calling on the city to let an independent body dissect the data to see which mode of transit is more efficient – though he says you don’t have to be an engineer to figure out which one keeps traffic moving quicker.

“TTC is looking at operating costs rather than the travel times to make this decision,” he says. “We are told again and again … that a large TTC streetcar carries more passengers than a smaller sized bus, but that’s stating the obvious. What we haven’t been told is that if we deploy the right kind of bus technology – what would be the through put capacity through those versus the streetcar. We already have determined, I believe, that buses would be faster.”

Professor Haider adds that one of the biggest issues with streetcars is the city’s romantic or nostalgic leanings towards the decades old mode of transportation. He questions how much the city and it’s population are willing to pay in terms of travel times and lost proficiency to keep them.

For his part, Councillor Ford says even though his motion was dropped, its a fight he’s looking at revisiting.


Dog owners warned after dead ducks found at Woodbine Beach

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017


A disturbing discovery at Woodbine Beach has some dog owner feeling uneasy.

Thirty ducks and a heron were found dead on the shoreline on Sunday morning.

The dead ducks were scattered across a couple hundred yards of shoreline and Toronto Animal Services were quick to remove the deceased wildlife.

An investigation to determine the cause of death is underway.

In a news release issued on Monday, the city said they are urging dog owners to keep their pets on-leash in the area.

It’s still not clear what happened to these ducks and officials say it will take at least another two weeks to find out.

The city is urging dog owners to contact their vet if their dog was at Woodbine beach on Sunday and is experiencing any signs of illness.


B.C. police officer shot and killed in Abbotsford

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017


A police officer in Abbotsford, B.C., has died following an exchange of gunfire with a suspect who had allegedly stolen a vehicle.

In video footage sent to NEWS 1130, police vehicles can be seen running into at least one other car.

Abbotsford police Chief Bob Rich says the department received a phone call about a stolen vehicle at about 11:30 a.m. PT today.

He says the caller remained at the scene and blocked the vehicle, but the suspect emerged and began shooting at him. Police officers were called and Rich says after an exchange of gunfire an officer was taken to hospital with serious injuries. Rich says he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

The suspect fled in the vehicle and police officers pursued him to the intersection of Mt. Lehman Road and Fraser Highway. Rich says a man in his 60s from Alberta was apprehended and taken to hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The deceased officer’s name has not been released.

Woman in her 30s dead after shooting at Hamilton home

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2017

Hamilton police (Dave Ritchie for CityNews)

A woman in her 30s is dead following a shooting in Hamilton on Monday evening.

Police received a 911 call just after 5 p.m. about shots being fired a residence on Lang Street and found the victim suffering from gunshot wounds.

The woman was pronounced dead on arrival at Hamilton General Hospital.

Police have not released her name, adding she did not live at the two-storey home.

Police also said no weapon has been found and they are asking for the public’s help to identify a suspect.

They say the victim and shooter are believed to have known each other.



Jagmeet Singh wants opioid addiction declared a national crisis

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 6th, 2017

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh arrives to speak to delegates and supporters during the B.C. NDP Convention at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday, November 4, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Jagmeet Singh says he’s witnessed the devastation of British Columbia’s opioid overdose epidemic and it breaks his heart.

The federal New Democrat Party leader said he visited an overdose prevention site in Vancouver this week where he saw people struggling with addiction and learned how to administer the overdose-busting medication Naloxone.

Singh told about two thousand delegates attending the B.C. NDP convention on Saturday that Canada’s drug laws should reflect that drug addiction is a social justice issue and not a criminal justice matter. He called on the federal government to declare opioid addiction a national crisis.

Singh drew a standing ovation when he said the New Democrats would decriminalize personal possession of all drugs, not just marijuana.

“I saw that people’s lives are being destroyed while the federal government does little or nothing and it breaks my heart,” he said. “I saw with my own eyes the devastation of the opioid crisis.”

Singh said addiction is rooted in issues of poverty and mental health.

“To me poverty, mental health and addictions don’t sound like criminal justice problems,” he said. “They sound to me like a social justice problem. That’s why I’m calling for the decriminalization of all personal possession offences when it comes to drugs to make a difference in the lives of people and actually bring real change.”

Singh, elected NDP leader last month, said the federal New Democrats must become the party that represents the lives and hopes of Canadians.

“We get it,” he said. “We are the party that hears the stories of people, the struggles. We must again be the party that inspires Canadians. That makes their hearts beat faster.”

Earlier, B.C. Premier John Horgan told delegates the provincial party is celebrating forming government after 16 years of Liberal administrations, but serious decisions about the Site C dam and Kinder Morgan pipeline are ahead.

Toronto FC loses but advances to Eastern Final on away goals rule

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 6th, 2017

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) scuffles with New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams (4) after teammate Sebastian Giovinco (10) was pushed to the ground during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Sunday, November 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Toronto FC lost 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls in an abrasive, ill-tempered game Sunday but still advanced to the MLS Eastern Conference final on the away goals rule after the series ended in a 2-2 tie on aggregate.

It was a feisty affair that saw Toronto striker Jozy Altidore and Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan sent off after a tunnel melee at halftime. And things got worse after that with the game threatening to spiral out of control from referee Chris Penso, who issued eight yellows in addition to the two reds.

League-leading Toronto will be without its other star striker next time out after Sebastian Giovinco received his second yellow in as many games.

TFC will play the Columbus Crew, who advanced 3-4 on aggregate against NYCFC.

Bradley Wright-Phillips, notching his 100th career goal for the sixth-seeded Red Bulls when a long-range shot deflected in off him, scored the game’s lone goal in the 53rd minute to give the visitors hope.

A Toronto goal by Jonathan Osorio in the 78th minute was called off due to a foul, apparently for what was considered a shove to a Red Bulls player.

Who’s responsible for scooping the taxi scoopers at Pearson

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 6th, 2017


When it comes to putting the brakes on taxi scoopers, it seems there isn’t much anyone can do.

CityNews first brought you the story of “Taxi Bandits”, drivers who solicit passengers from the arrival area of Pearson International Airport before they make their way outside. These passengers are then lured toward the parkade, are charged more than what they should pay for a ride and often asked to pay with cash only.

The airport has a private security firm to deal with scoopers but as one commissionaire told us, it’s easier said than done.

“It can be frustrating because they know the law,” says Wayne Jeffrey, a commissionaire at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“They are non-compliant with us, as commissionaires we can ticket their vehicles if they leave them unattended but that doesn’t seem to bother them.”

Jeffrey says all commissionaires can do is warn passengers when they see them with these taxi bandits. They don’t have the authority to stop them. That is up to law enforcement, but even they have very little influence.

“They’re providing a service,” said Constable Mark Fischer of Peel Regional Police.

“The difference is that the service that they are providing is not regulated under the licensing of the airport.”

Fischer added the most these drivers can be charged with is trespassing. While Peel police are still part of law enforcement in regards to illegal taxi services, hiring security units rests with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority

In a statement to CityNews the GTAA said, “The safety of our passengers is Toronto Pearson’s first priority. We engage private security and public education to protect our passengers against unlicensed taxis. We also cooperate with our partners at Peel Regional Police to deter unlicensed taxi drivers from operating at Toronto Pearson.”

“We recommend that passengers ask an airport employee if they are uncertain of where to go for legitimate taxi and limo service. Licensed drivers will not approach passengers in the public areas of the arrivals halls. Also, passengers should look for signage throughout the terminals to identify the verified taxi and limo stand areas. These stands are clearly marked at the curbs of both terminals’ arrivals areas.”

As for the city’s role, councillor Giorgio Mammoliti says there’s not much they can do either.

“This is federal jurisdiction,” said Mammoliti. “They need to change legislation so that municipalities can work in their bylaws to remove the cars of these drivers if they continue their illegal activities.”

Who owns your Twitter account when it comes to your employment?

CityNews | posted Monday, Nov 6th, 2017


A popular Toronto Parking Enforcement Officer is currently the talk of twitter, after his account was suspended following his employers claims there were concerns about his posts.

Kyle Ashley is described as a passionate and outspoken bike cop, who isn’t too shy to call out violators parked in bike lanes on Twitter. However, since Friday, his account @TPS_ParkingPal is no longer active on the social media site, and many, including city councillors took notice.

“As one Councillor voice, I so appreciated Kyle’s tweets. He is exactly what enforcement needs,” Councillor Joe Mihevc tweeted.

Cycle Toronto, a bike advocacy group, tweeted Toronto Police and John Tory asking why the account was removed.

Ashley tells CityNews he’s the one who decided to suspend his account, after he says Toronto Police showed up at his door demanding his twitter credentials.

“I chose to deactivate it at that point,” he said. “I received no advisement on what the tweets were of concern. Other than brief allusion to interactions with people in Montreal.”

He adds as of now, he is expected at work on Monday.

The Toronto Police Service did not tell CityNews which posts were deemed ‘concerning’.

“While he has done some excellent work highlighting bike lanes, there have been some ongoing concerns about some of the postings on his account. Those concerns have escalated,” said Mark Pugash, Director of Corporate Communications with TPS. “We felt the most appropriate thing to do was to suspend, temporarily, his Twitter account while we look into those concerns.”

CityNews reached out to Twitter Canada and a spokesperson said social media policies are defined by individual employees. Though the site advises users to post content they are comfortable sharing with others, as it is their sole responsibility.

“Any use or reliance on any Content or materials posted via the Services or obtained by you through the Services is at your own risk,” reads Twitter’s Terms of Service. “We do not endorse, support, represent or guarantee the completeness, truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of any Content or communications posted via the Services or endorse any opinions expressed via the Services.”

However, there are instances where the site may disclose personal information, if it believes “it is reasonably necessary to comply with a law, regulation, legal process, or governmental request.” The site states non-personal information that can be disclosed include things like the number of tweet engagements, how many users click on particular links or voted on polls, or trending topics.

“Obtaining non-public information, such as an email address used to sign-up for an account or IP login information, requires valid legal process like subpoena, court order, or other local legal process, depending on the country that issues the request,” Twitter Canada says.

There are also non-public requests, like direct messages, that may delve deeper and require a search warrants. Twitter Canada says it doesn’t always provide information when it receives legal requests.

“Twitter may seek to narrow requests that are overly broad, request additional context if the nature of the investigation is not clear, or push back on the request for other reasons,” said Twitter Canada.

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